An Improbable Win: Caps beat Rangers 3-2

Green scoar - Patrick McDermott

Photo: Patrick McDermott

Welcome back, everybody! The Capitals returned to action on Friday night, hosting the New York Rangers and being good hosts by giving their guests the puck pretty much the whole time. What should have been a blowout ended favorably for the Caps, thanks to some singular efforts by a few players in red.

Mike Green cracked Rangers goalie Cam Talbot (yeah, really) with a nifty power play goal set up by Marty Erat. The Rangers evened it up  in the second with a powerplay marker of their own, converted by Benoit Pouliot. After a ton of zone time for the Rangers, Steve Oleksy set Nick Backstrom solo upon the offensive zone where he put the Caps up 2-1 going into the third. Carl Hagelin got a shorty just a couple seconds into the final period, but Eric Fehr restored the Caps lead with a wrister from the circles.

Caps beat Rangers 3-2.

  • Adam Oates tapped Philipp Grubauer (does anyone pronounce it Grubrouwer sometimes?) for the start instead of Braden Holtby. Alain Vigneault tapped Cam Talbot instead of Henrik Lundqvist. So that’s two unproven goalies getting their reps in while two superior, more experienced goalies rode the pine. Maybe coaches think of themselves goalie whisperers, able to peer into their souls and predict their futures. If you were to ask me, I’d say you go with the future hall of famer and the guy whom the stats say will be an above-average goalie whenever you can. But I’m just some dude.
  • Grubauer was pretty great though, particularly when fed to the wolves in the second period. Perfect at evens.
  • The Capitals are not a strong team when it comes to puck possession, the single best predictor of future success that we’ve got. All that was evident in this one as the Rangers got the lion’s share of the shot attempts– more than 70% at one point. The top line is still doing great, so is the power play, but if anything happens to either of those– and if luck turns on the Caps– it’s gonna get really ugly in 2014.
  • The possession anchors (as in sinking, not as in being reliable) were the bottom two lines: Erat’s and Beagle’s. Jay Beagle was on ice for exactly 0 unblocked shot attempts during 5v5. And what Volpatti is doing on this roster, I have no earthly idea.
  • During a first-period interview, Calle Johansson urged Mike Green to “take a walk on the wild side.” In a second-period interview, Blaine Forsythe made children cry.
  • The refs didn’t hesitate to use their whistles in this one, and though their soft calls were evenly distributed I’ve gotta think it benefited the Capitals. The less time spent playing 5-on-5, the better.
  • Except when Nick Backstrom is on the ice. Backstrom looked in control the whole time, leading the team in on-ice shot attempts, scoring one very pretty goal Rambo-style, plus killing penalties. Ryan Lambert recently expressed doubt that Backstrom is actually any good, but there’s nothing to justify that. He improves Ovechkin’s play significantly and he’s damn good on his own. I wonder: if Backstrom weren’t such a low-key guy, would the broader hockey world be talking about him more? I bet they would. For now, I don’t really care. Nicky’s thing is doing hockey well and doing it quietly.
  • I was waxing on Nicky there because, apart from the top line and Grubi, the rest of the team was pretty bad tonight. With one more exception…
  • Eric Fehr, who shoulda had two. His third-period goal was excellent– and just as fortuitously timed as Backstrom’s– but his second-period non-goal was a heartbreaker, requiring video review to conclusively overturn. Fehr didn’t have a lot of scoring opportunities tonight, but he made ‘em count.
Joe B suit of the night + an interloper

Joe B suit of the night + an interloper

Tonight’s recap is a bit subdued, and for that I apologize. I’m a little under the weather, so I must rely on you guys to make the jokes and supply the figurative language in the comments. I am happy to report that I’m not suffering the same symptoms Linus Omark is suffering from– what my grandma would call a “north and south flu.”

The Capitals got the W despite playing kind of atrociously at even strength. That’s their first legit win since December 20th. Hopefully this will be the low-water mark on the team’s possession issues, and we’ll see some corrective moves made soon.

Can’t keep winning ‘em like this.

Tweet of the night:

  • Roman Z.

    Good decision to put Grubauer in the net! Besides that, we didnt deserve the win.

  • Bob

    Nicky Nicky Nicky, ho-freakin-hum. Our D still looked like they were on an adventure sometimes trying to exit the zone but i liked what i saw, especially from Gruby once again.

  • Freedoooom

    http://i.minus.com/jdZx1OzSBOcKL.png

    1. No penalty.
    2. Team scored thanks to headshot.

    It would be a Christmas miracle for a Rangers player to be suspended though.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    It wasn’t a good *decision* to put him in net. It was a good outcome from a decision that probably wasn’t carefully made.

  • Red

    If we didn’t have good offense, we would be the worst team in the league. 5on5 is painful to watch. Our puck possession is reminiscent of a game of hot potato. But we’re the only team playing.

  • Marky Narc

    I hold my breath every time 4-61 is on the ice. Which really sucks because I love breathing.

  • Bob

    i think we deserved the win. Yea everyone should have known the rangers would tie it up at 2 but they kept fighting instead of feeling sorry for themselves.

  • Bob

    LOL, i close my eyes which sucks because i like to see

  • Roman Z.

    That small sample is steadily increasing Peter

  • Myan

    Our D needs to step up. Carlzner hasn’t looked very good in the last 2-3 games and it sucks to say, but I’m starting to think that the problem is Alzner. I just recall multiple lapses in concentration during the game and one horrific shift in the 3rd where he missed Ovi’s pass at the point and then turned the puck over in our own zone because he was a second too slow to move the puck. A few minutes after that, he had the puck behind Grubi and was indecisive and turned it over again.

  • Jay DeLancey

    Peter– who is this Nick Backstom you speak of?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Ugggggg

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Fixed. THIS IS REALLY HARD FOR ME.

  • Roman Z.

    You really think our 5on5 was nice watch, aren’t you tired of the same dump and chase which usually does not result in anything but possession loss?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    No, it’s not.

    He’s played 10 games. We need like 3 seasons worth. We’re not even there with Holtby yet (but we’re getting closer.)

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    nope nope nope nope nope nope

  • JenniferH

    Agreed. That goal shouldn’t have happened. Elbow to Troy’s face. Refs didn’t catch it. But we won. Shrugs.

  • Owen Johnson

    Well our boys pulled out another regulation win when they probably shouldn’t have. To be honest though, didn’t pay as much attention to this one as I was basking in victory after my Herd beat Maryland. We Are… Marshall!

  • swineflusick

    Q: What is sicker than Peter Hassett?
    A: Ovechkin/Orlov box buddy time. so sick ))))))))

  • JenniferH

    Nicky, Fehrsie, Gruby. Yay! That’s what it’s about and we won. I’ll take it.

    I say Grubrouwer too.

    Thanks Peter, feel better.

    And I miss Holtby… as always.

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    LOL Rangers!!! HAHA!!

  • Matt

    3rd period wasn’t bad

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    thank you!

  • James Hare

    I pissed off my wife by yelling about that non-call. Brouwer is a tough guy but he shouldn’t be taking elbows to the head without a penalty.

  • Owen Johnson

    Very VERY slowly increasing. Although in the words of Mugatu: That Philipp Grubauer. He’s so hot right now.

  • James Hare

    You should read the very informative article from a goalie scout they posted during the Bruins series. Really goes a long way to explain what to expect. I don’t think we really ever saw a sophomore slump for Holtby. We’re certainly seeing it now, but I think it’s more about teams watching the film and seeing his weak spots. He’ll be able to adjust.

    The Rangers just made Lundqvist one of the highest-paid players in hockey and he didn’t play tonight. They started their hot hand just like we did. Wanna bet against Lundqvist starting in the playoffs?

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    You gotta wonder whether the Olympics can help to make this team championship caliber. They need something to help them.

  • Catherine__M

    Exactly. I beached about that one for a solid 10 minutes.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    unbelievable

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Yeah, and I don’t mean to take away from Grubi what he’s done so far. He’s been great, but I think there’s an inevitable and dramatic drop-off coming for him. Not so for Braden.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Yeah, they kept pace. I was surprised and happy about that!

  • Matt

    He has only started 6 games this season. That is still in the “hot streak” range.

  • supremeclientele44

    can we get a GIF of the ovie hit on boyle?

  • Matt

    I’m really glad we got the win today, now I can laugh at all the Rangers fans when I go to NYC tomorrow.

  • JenniferH

    The interesting thing is we’re not actually seeing a sophomore slump with Holtby. He really only had one bad game. The game where he was first pulled when he let 3 goals in was because of the crazy number of penalties that Greenie caused and none of those goals were Holts’ fault. Then Holts didn’t play for 10 days straight. Then his next game on, yeah, he let in 4 goals, but we won and 3 of those 4 goals weren’t his fault. Next game, 4-5 goals went in, but again, none of the goals (even according to Oates) were his fault. And now he hasn’t played in 3 games.

    So we’re talking literally ONE bad game in December. So how is this Holtby’s slump when he’s actually not playing and not letting in bad goals. He’s not playing, he’s got crappy defense in front of him, facing near 40 shots a game and barely playing. He had one bad game. That’s not a slump.

    Obviously, I agree with the rest of what you’re saying, I just don’t get this perception that Holts is slumping. If Gruby hadn’t come up and had such a hot hand, Holtby would have continued playing regularly since Oates obviously has no interest in playing Neuvy. Then if Holtby had continued to play like he did that one game, I’d agree he’s slumping, but as things have actually played out in realty… no slumping. Just one bad game, very little playing and crappy defense.

  • Jack Conness

    I missed the game but it looks like Gruby had another awesome game! Good for him! I saw the tweets and it sounded like an ugly game but I’m happy the Caps were able to come out on top. Always a good W against NY.

  • Guest

    https://vine.co/v/hQ1JppLTzIV/embed i wonder if this guy is upset

  • X

    question is whether these wins will bode well for the caps, and give them a nice cushion when they don’t deserve it, or make them think they are heading in the right direction. Judging by player interviews it seems like these guys know they don’t deserve these wins. I can only hope they turn their 5v5 performance around eventually.

  • JoeA

    Were you at the the last few practices? Do you have the coaches office and the locker room bugged? Is it possible that the coaches may see and actually know more to make the decision they made? Could hockey be like my 401(k) in that past performances do not always indicate future results?

  • JoeA

    I was only the end of 1st/ beginning of 2nd that saw any appreciable difference.

  • Shaun Phillips

    Backstrom reminds me a lot of Datysuk/Zetterberg in Detroit. Very quietly go about their business and don’t get as much press as they probably should (both are around pt/gm this season). With Nicky, he’s overshadowed by Ovi; Datsyuk and Z overshadow each other.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I think I allowed for that possibility in my comment, and I elsewhere stated that the decision to play Grubi may have been due to factors beyond “who gives them the best chance to win the game?”

    Because when it comes to “who gives them the best chance to win the game?”, there is no room for debate. It is Holtby.

    Grubi hasn’t played enough yet to prove he’s anything but lucky.
    http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3607295/goalie_random.jpg

  • Troy

    Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than talented (case and point, we don’t win the flyers game or the ranger’s game with Holtby in net) this “franchise goalie” shit needs to stop, hot hands > proven records. How do you think holts ever gained any prominence. When I was begging for Holts to start about a month before that bruins series, people on here called me a jackwagon.
    Hot hands win games, series’, and cups

  • Troy

    4-61 are playing better than 74-27
    Why is Alzy not with Mike? Ya saw what happened last year when Alzy was paired with Mike and Carlson should be pawned off ASAP before teams realize his lack of zone-exiting comprehension

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Luck decides who wins games (and Cups to an extent), but it should never decide who gets starts. For crying out loud, there’s a wiki entry dedicated to how colossally wrong you are: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot-hand_fallacy

  • Pat Magee

    Why has Orlov been taking the Ovi spot on the PP?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I think that was just at the very end of one PP. Ovi still gets like 95% of PP time.

  • Myan

    poor possession but we squeaked it out….could it be because of good goaltending? :O

  • Troy

    I said “hot hands win games, series’, and cups.” The only luck I mentioned was just the statement “sometimes it’s better to be lucky than talented.” I really hope that I don’t have to display a dictionary entry for what the word “sometimes” means, but I guess our reading comprehension is sometimes lacking when our passion tends to show.
    So, to clarify, I said that luck only SOMETIMES has it’s way of changing a game, but I also said that the hot hand in goal should almost always be honored (if presented with a must win game, playoff series, etc.)